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Benthic and planktonic inorganic nutrient processing rates at the interface between a river and lake

July 20, 2021

The interface between lotic and lentic ecosystems is often a zone of intense metabolic activity, as primary production in streams and rivers can be light limited whereas nutrients often limit primary production in lake ecosystems. Our objective was to model the influence that rivermouths (the lotic-lentic interface) could have on the loads of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (N) passing from the tributary to the nearshore zone of a lake. To achieve this objective, we modeled the combined role of water column nutrient transformation rates with sediment nutrient flux rates. For sensitivity analysis, we picked plausible parameter ranges based on values previously measured in the Fox rivermouth (a tributary to Lake Michigan). Sensitivity analysis of the model demonstrated that overall the importance of water column processing rates increases with increasing nutrient concentration and discharge. We then applied the model to the Fox rivermouth, simulating the change in nutrients on four dates where all of the necessary parameters had been estimated. This modeling suggests that the Fox rivermouth is often a net sink for SRP and source for ammonia (NH4), with water column processing driving SRP removal and both water column and sediment flux driving NH4 dynamics. Removal of SRP in the water column means conversion to particulate and/or organic P, and those P pools are generally considered to be less bioavailable than SRP, so it may be that rivermouths disconnect upstream sources of nutrients from nearshore food webs. These results demonstrate that the interface zone between lotic and lentic systems has the potential to substantially alter the load and character of nutrients as river waters pass through rivermouths to adjacent nearshore areas.

Publication Year 2021
Title Benthic and planktonic inorganic nutrient processing rates at the interface between a river and lake
DOI 10.1007/s10533-021-00821-8
Authors James H. Larson, Mary Anne Evans, Faith A. Fitzpatrick, Paul C. Frost, Marguerite A. Xenopoulos, William F. James, Paul Reneau
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biogeochemistry
Index ID 70223244
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center